It’s good to be home.
Toronto FC continued their renaissance on Saturday night with a 1-1 draw against Orlando City SC.
As if it could have been any other way, Jozy Altidore scored the goal in the 72nd minute, eight minutes after subbing on, with a powerful header on a move started when Yeferson Soteldo slipped Justin Morrow down the left and he hung a ball up into the heart of the area.
Orlando would level five minutes later when a long-ball got behind the Toronto defense leading to a collision between Alex Bono and Benji Michel prompting the referee, with the aid of VAR, to point to the spot.
Nani dispatched the penalty to share the spoils on the night.
A point against difficult opposition intent on taking the emotion out of TFC’s homecoming has seen Toronto take four points from two games against teams at the top of the Eastern Conference. But if possible, the result was secondary on a night where the club and its fans were reunited after so long apart.
“It was a very special moment for the whole team,” said Javier Perez post-match. “For me, for the players, for everybody involved at the club to have the fans. That's the strength that they give us. Every player felt it tonight.”
“We are happy with the performance,” he continued. “The result, obviously, we wanted the three points, but the performance is good. We are going to build the team from here. We are going to be stronger and stronger.”
Said Alejandro Pozuelo: “Very happy to be here again. Before the game, we said we wanted to come here and to play again with the fans, with the people. We need the people. We need the fans. We need their support. So we are very happy to be here again.”
The eruption from the 7000 in attendance when Altidore came in was doubled when he found the back of the net.
His celebration, peeling away to the south east corner of the stadium, where so many shared moments between the supporters and the team have taken place, was exactly what everybody has been waiting for.
“It was amazing,” smiled Altidore. “You see how much it means to the guys to be back here playing in front of these fans.”
“The past ~16 months we've talked about trying to be professional and do a job, but people have to understand that it's not only the players that are on the road, it's our kids and our families, getting them out of school, in school, them being uncomfortable as well, that weighs on you as a parent, as fathers,” he explained. “So to finally be back in a normal environment, so to speak, you saw the relief from the guys to be able to play home, to have that normalcy back again was great.”
“I think you saw that in that celebration,” Altidore added. “It’s a big relief to be home.”
A diminutive attacker, sliding a ball wide for the full-back to send into the box where Jozy got on the end of it at BMO Field. There was something just right about that.
“Jozy was motivated, he showed that on the field,” said Perez. “Not only the goal that he scored, but also the willingness to please the teammates and to please the coaching staff doing what we ask him to do.”
“[He told me] it was a fairy tale for him to come back and the first game back home, he scores that goal,” he added. “I wish we had that goal leading us into the three points, but for him, it's good.”
It was his first appearance for the club since May 22, against the same Orlando City side.
“We know the important player that Jozy is for us. He adds a lot to the team,” said Pozuelo. “You see when he comes to the pitch, he gives the team something extra”
“We need him. We know he wants to play here. He loves the team. He loves Toronto. I have a good relationship with him and that's it,” he added. “We are here together now. We can play together. So we can enjoy it.”
TFC will be back on the pitch at BMO Field again this Wednesday when the New York Red Bulls come to town with even more faithful in attendance.
The Reds are back. Altidore is back.
“What's real is real, man,” he levelled. “You can't fool people, especially in a blue collar city like this, they know what the real is. They know what I'm all about. They know what I'm here for, why I came here. I’m always going to put the team first and play for them.”
“They give us the lift like no other, so to be back here, playing in front of them I can't tell you what it means,” Altidore continued. “We're just so happy to be back. And now it's about Wednesday.”
“We've gotten four points out of these last two games and we're kicking on, but it's another tough opponent, another tough game, and the fact that we get 15 000 on Wednesday it's incredible,” he closed. “So we're excited for that and hopefully they can help lift us to three points.”